World Press Photo Prize Winner Accused of Staging Photographs

Photographer Ramin Talaie, who teaches photojournalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, published a note on Medium, where he explained what he has against one of the winners of World Press Photo, Hossein Fatemi. He accused the contestant of taking staged pictures and altering the truth in the captions.

According to the author of the article, he spent several months studying the work of the Iranian photographer: he started the investigation after the series called An Iranian Journey — the same that brought Fatemi a WPP prize — won in another prestigious photography competition, Picture of the Year International, last year. Immediately after the winners were announced, Talaie started receiving messages from people who said that many of the Fatemi’s works are breaking the standards of journalism.

“inbox and Facebook Messenger was flooded with individuals claiming to have helped or witnessed Fatemi stage his subjects for this project. Others claim Fatemi had plagiarized their work and in some cases even copied images frame by frame.,” Talaie says. “Over the following months I began compiling testimony and evidence and started verifying sources, locations, website and other information.”

After WPP winners were announced, Talaie sent the results of his investigation to the heads of the organization. They promised to look into the matter, but soon replied that the presented evidence is not enough to press any charges. So, Talaie decided to share the information he discovered with the wide public, to start an open conversation about what had happened.

In his article he cites over ten photographs as an example, which in his opinion are staged or distort reality in some other way.

For instance, in one of the photographs that is captioned ‘A naked woman and her client. The woman is a prostitute working to pay for the cost of raising her two children,” the man is not an actual client, but a former friend of the photographer, named Ali. “Ali says that Fatemi asked him to stand and asked her to pose by the window,” Talaie writes.

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Another photo taken in the gym was also staged, the author of the article says. One of the young women is an acquaintance of the photographer whom he asked to take part in the shoot: “The woman on far left, wearing white belt, has never practiced martial arts.”

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Another accusation toward Fatemi came from photographer Kaveh Rostamkhani who lives in Germany. He says that when he was working on his series called Iran: Generation Post-Revolution, he asked Fatemi to be his guide — Fatemi also took photographs, but promised Rostamkhani not to publish them anywhere. He ended up breaking his promise, and both projects have very similar photographs.

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Other photographs that the author of the article claims to be staged are available here.

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